People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Chief of General Staff Chen Bingde (陳炳德) confirmed earlier this week that China was developing the Dong Feng 21D (DF-21D, 東風21D) anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), the first Chinese official to publicly state that the missile is in development. (Note: pictured left is a DF-21C and its road-mobile launcher, not a DF-21D.)
His comments came as the English-language China Daily reported that the DF-21D had a range of 2,700km (see update at bottom), well beyond assessments by the Office of Naval Intelligence last year, which put it at about 1,500km.
The missile, which is capable of hitting moving targets at sea and is seen as a potential threat to aircraft carrier battle groups, would represent a powerful deterrent to the US Navy in the Pacific (see map, right, which can be enlarged).
However, Chen said the DF-21D, which can be fired from mobile land-based launchers, was still in the research, development and testing stage, adding that such high-tech devices were difficult to bring to maturity.
My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here. My article in Jane’s Defence Weekly is available here (subscription required).
I have since heard from another source who happens to know someone at the China Daily. According to his account, staff at the paper added the part on 2,700km themselves. An original version of the article, since removed from the China Daily Web site, appears to have directly quoted Chen Bingde saying the missile had a range of 2,700km. However, and as my article makes it clear, the claims about the extended range have yet to be confirmed, and no official Chinese coverage mentions such a range. That said, this doesn’t mean it would be technically impossible to increase the range of the DF-21D, as Fisher and others told me yesterday.
My article and assessment of the reasons for Chen’s official announcement remain valid. Chen wanted to let the US know that China is indeed developing effective ways to counter US ‘hegemonism’ in the Pacific, but without making it sound too threatening, hence the caveat on the difficulties in its R&D.